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Illegal cabbies cash in

THE Shanghai Traffic Law Enforcement Team, city's traffic service watchdog, said yesterday it had caught more than 10 unlicensed taxis, or "black cabs," around the World Expo site since late May.

Spokesman Wu Runyuan said the team would continue to crack down on the illegal operations.

"We've been hearing wonderful things about Expo, and it was wonderful when I visited. So it's such a pity to find myself getting ripped off just a few blocks away from Expo," American student Joseph Moore said yesterday.

He arrived in the city two weeks ago and visited the Expo last Saturday. Moore left at around 7pm but found a long queue of people waiting for taxis outside Gate 8.

He walked a few blocks further and found four or five empty cabs waiting. He got into the first one and showed the driver his hotel's address. The driver held up two fingers to indicate the fare - 200 yuan (US$29), Moore said.

Moore pointed at the meter but the driver simply shook his head. Moore was shocked, especially as he saw some policemen just a few steps away. Later, his Chinese friends told him the fare should have been less than 100 yuan.

Wu said the cabs they had caught had bought sets of regular taxi equipment on the black market. The drivers were each fined up to 50,000 yuan and their vehicles confiscated.

These unlicensed drivers saw an opportunity when increasing visitor numbers meant the number of taxis designated for the Expo fell short of demand.

Although the unlicensed cabs could not reach the controlled areas around the Expo site, they would take visitors close enough or to nearby Metro stations.

They often used tampered meters and made unnecessary detours.

The team is also tightening its checks on genuine taxi drivers who refuse to take passengers for no apparent reason - often when the journey is too short.


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